The Past Pushes Us Forward!

HOLY LAND TOUR-FINAL DAYI’ve not blogged as much as intended. Some of the lapse was the internet and some was me.

There’s been many powerful and overwhelming days, as if God himself invited me to meet with him in the desert so he could speak with me. He did and he has.

FINAL DAY

On this last day we will visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, then spend some in the Garden Tomb, have an early dinner and then go to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. It’s a light schedule but an emotionally heavy day. Glad to be going home. Sad to be leaving.

UNDERSTANDING

Visiting the Holy Land, and this is my 4th visit, you begin realizing that there is nothing divinely powerful in the ruins, the sites, or the ancient synagogues.

The power isn’t found in ancient stones of the past but in Jesus the living stone. The blessing we seek isn’t in the stories of great men and great events, but in the the sacred scriptures.The resurrected Messiah has power, the places and people of past events have none. But, they remind us of who does, and vividly.

I’ve walked where Jesus walked. Iv’e stood where Abraham lived. I’ve stepped through the ruins of King David’s Palace. I’ve sat in the temple courtyards where Jesus taught his disciples and healed and people.

It’s inspirational, and life affecting, to see it and imagine it happening. But there is not a single once of divine power in the ancient ruins, the Jordan River, or the Temple Mount. It’s all in Jesus and it all points to him.

TO CLOSE

Visiting the Holy Land is about understanding how the Kingdom of God, in one form or another, has always been here. It’s embracing that God has been with his people since time began, that he is with us still, and will continue to carry out his purpose for all time to come.

God isn’t finished with Israel, he is still here, still working, as he is everywhere and with everyone. 

Shalom

Taking The Plunge

HOLY LAND TOUR
If you feel that you’ve missed some blogs you aren’t wrong. I’ve had internet issues and my blog has been wonky to say the least. However, here is something we learned a few days ago. 

MIKVEH 

Some of you know this word and some of you have heard me speak about it in lessons. It’s a Hebrew word meaning to cleanse, or cleanse for ritual purification.  

When visiting the ruins of ancient villages it becomes obvious that the Mikveh was an essential part of the home, an essential element of Jewish life. The Mikveh was a square or rectangle shaped hole in the ground that was lined with rock or stone and filled with enough water for an adult to submerge. Kind of like a bathtub, but not. .

The Mikveh was used for ceremonial cleansing and not for washing off dirt. In fact, next to the Mikveh was a clay jar with water used to clean the outer person so then the ceremonial waters could clean the inner person.

Cleansing of this nature was done for many reasons. It was used when you were defiled by touching a dead body or animal or when coming into contact with anything that defiled you. It was used at the Temple in Jerusalem, in fact there were hundreds of them, for no one could enter the Temple unless they were first ceremonially clean.

BAPTISM 

For Christians, the Mikveh is known by a different word: baptism. For us, full immersion in water is done in the name of Jesus, and signifies experiencing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It’s where the old is crucified and buried and the new is raised to live life in Jesus.

The word “baptism” doesn’t mean ceremonial cleansing, it can’t be defined that way. Baptism comes from a Greek word that was made into an English word and it means immersion. But translators didn’t want to translate it as immersion for fear of offending many denominational churches who sprinkle or use some other form of “baptism.”

We wouldn’t call John the Baptist, “ John the Sprinkler.” We wouldn’t teach that Jesus went to the Jordan River to be sprinkled by John.

TO CLOSE

Homes in first century Palestine were about community, it was where parents, grandparents, and grandchildren could dwell together in separate rooms but rooms and space that was all connected. But one of the most important things they all shared was the Mikveh. The ability to immerse themselves in the blessing of ceremonial cleansing, to be pure before YHWH. What a beautiful gift to families. What a lovely thought for us all. Thanks you God.

Shalom

The New Way of Old

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY FIVE
Yesterday was day five of our Holy Land tour. We spent our time viewing the excavations and ruins of some of Galilee’s villages and synagogues. It’s interesting how people who lived 2000 years ago aligns with how people are trying to live today. 

CAPERNAUM

It was a fishing village on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was home to several of the apostles. It was well know for it’s synagogue which was built with money donated from a Centurion.

Some Facts 

– Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum to launch his ministry.

– He lived with Simon Peter and his family for about three years.

– Some of his greatest miracles were performed there.

– He taught, healed, and lived among the people, he was one of them.

CORAZIN

Just a couple of miles from Capernaum was the village of Chorazin and its synagogue. Perhaps not as large a village or as grand a synagogue, but a village that offered a beautiful setting in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.

Some Facts

– Jesus performed many miracles in Chorazin.

– He became displeased with the community for their lack of faith.

– It was obvious that the village was constructed around family.

An interesting observation about the two villages, and others like them, was that their culture totally revolved around family.

– Every family had to make a living

– Few could afford to hire outside help

– They needed a growing work force

– That happened by having many children who married and had many children

– The sons brought their brides home to live with the family

– The daughters married and moved with their husbands to their families

– It was an agrarian culture and deeply dependent on family

An interesting aspect to that culture was how they all lived together. Today, because of prosperity and a different culture, our families separate and live elsewhere. Our children grow up and get married and move away, either near or far, but away from the parents.

Not so in first century Israel. They built their families with a “family dwelling” model. Mom and Dad had a house and as children came they added rooms. As children became men and married, they moved into added rooms that expanded the house with more walls and living space. Over time, the “house” became a community of family, perhaps 50-60 people living together. With such numbers were additional field hands, fishermen, and the workers they needed to expand their fields, reap a greater harvest and so forth.

TO CLOSE

In John 14 Jesus told his apostles that he was leaving to prepare a house, or mansion as some versions put it, and that he would return to take them to be with him.

We think of heaven as mansions on streets of gold. But what Jesus was saying was that he was leaving to go and build a room on his Father’s house for each of them. A place for everyone, a home for everyone to be together, to be a family.

Think about it. It’s the new way of old. We look forward to an eternal dwelling based on how people lived 2000 years ago!

Shalom

A Couple of Cool Mountains

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY THREE

Yesterday was a great day. Our group is drawing closer to each other and bonding over the shared experience of the Holy Land. It’s been wonderful to see it happen. 

Our second day took us to two places:

1. The Desert of Zin

2. The Fortress of Masada

At first glance the two have little in common, but not true, they share many similarities.

They both are:

1. In desert locations

2. Exist in mountain terrain

3. Centered around famous people

4. Significant to the biblical narrative

THE DESERT OF ZIN

There is in Zin a massive and mysterious canyon where Moses provided water for the people and their live stock. Provide water he did but the way he did it changed his life.

 Moses had been distraught over the people. Their constant grumbling and desire to return to Egypt were demonstrations of a faithless and impatient spirit that was all to quick to give up. On that day, while they demonstrated their lack of trust Moses demonstrated his growing anger. He took the Staff of God and, in full view of the people, hit the rock twice which greatly displeased YWEH. Moses failed to demonstrate God as holy and as a consequence was forbidden from entering the Promise Land. It was a tough day for Moses.

THE FORTRESS OF MASADA

This incredible mountain escape was commissioned by Herod the Great who was a prolific builder of great structures and palace retreats. He was not the rightful heir of King David and he wasn’t even Jewish but of mixed ancestry. He used his political skill to curry favor from Rome and got himself declared King of Judea.

His great fear was that the Jews would revolt or that Rome would revoke his power. So, in case of the worst case scenario Herod would need somewhere to go. Masada was built just for that purpose. It was in the middle of nowhere, on top of mountain, out in the desert of Judea. It’s a magnificent and impressive place.

A FEW THOUGHTS

1. Moses was a great servant of God, Herod never served God.

2. Moses delivered his people from Egypt, Herod enslaved his people.

3. Moses wanted only to help them, Herod wanted only to rule them.

4. Moses worshipped the Lord God, while Herod worshipped himself.

TO CLOSE

Two mountain experiences, two impressive things to see. The Canyon of Zin was of God’s design with immense beauty and majesty. The fortress of Masada was of man’s design and revealed the empty heart of a wicked man.

Let us not be overly impressed by what men can achieve but amazed at what God has done and still does. What are we building? Our we seeking to glorify ourselves or are we seeking to glorify the Lord God? The Canyon Rock or the Fortress of Masada? Which are you pursing?

Shalom From the Holy Land

A Walk On the Beach

HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY ONE

Well, it’s Monday morning and I’m blogging not from my desk at home but from my room at the Leonardo Hotel in down town Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m here with a group from my church to see the Holy Land. We arrived last night in time to eat dinner and take a walk on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. It a was beautiful moonlit evening, cool and breezy.  

In a few minutes we’ll have breakfast and then we’re off on the grand adventure, the first day of our tour. I’ve been here several times but it’s the first time for those in the group. I’m so excited to share it with them, to watch their eyes and to see their reactions to what they’re about to see.

MY FIRST TRIP

My first time here was a life changing experience. It deeply affected me: it reinvigorated my faith, put a zeal in my preaching and gave me a whole new enthusiasm for bible study.

LAST NIGHT 

As we worked our through the downtown traffic our guide, a good friend and fellow Yeshua believer, suggested that we are here because God wanted us to be here, that no place else could we expect to have the meeting with God that God wants to have with us.

COMING UP

Over the next two weeks my blog will offer a day by day travel-log with my observations and insights. This isn’t a vacation. It’s not a stroll down a historical memory lane. It’s an opportunity to meet God in the desert, to see him on the waters of the Sea of Galilee and to better imagine Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem as he was led to his death.

TO CLOSE

So, stay tuned and walk the holy land with me. It’s a beautiful thing.

SHALOM

14,000 and Couting!

HOLY LAND TOUR: DAY TWO

Monday was a full day of interesting sites and fascinating history. We completed Day One in fine fashion and all are healthy, happy, and hungry for more.

SIMON PETER

We spent some time in Joppa, the home of Simon the Tanner where Peter was staying when he received the vision about Jew/Gentile equality for the Gospel. That vision changed the course of Christianity, beginning with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. It was a good place to visit and was inspiring to be in the place God gave Peter such an important message!

THEN TO AYLON

In 1945 a group of college kids accepted a challenge that would put their lives at risk for three years. They were asked to build and operate a highly secret bullet factory, and do so while under cover of an operating kibbutz. The factory used 47 workers, working 10 hours a day, six days a week, in an underground factory roughly the size of a tennis court. They made 9mm bullets for a machine guns their brothers used to fight for independence. In three years they manufactured 2.25 million bullets, averaging 14,000 a day. They were never detected.

 It’s an amazing story and some of those amazing young people are still alive and living in Israel. They are now in their 90’s and occasionally visit the museum that was once their top secret underground factory.

ON TO TEL BEER SHEVA 

We next visited the ruins of an ancient village some 4000 years old, a place dating beyond Abraham and Isaac who both had wells dug there. It was an impressive place, especially the underground caverns and cisterns for storing water. It was a remarkable demonstration of building techniques and construction beyond what most of us would have thought even possible. It was life in an ancient time

IN CLOSING

Seeing the Holy Land puts much in perspective. It was home to many of the Bible characters that we learned about as children. They were real people, with families, and lived their lives as best they could, serving the Lord by carrying out his will.

 Our lives are different from those who lived here thousands of years a go. On the other hand, perhaps not all that different. We pursue the living of our lives, the raising of families, the advancement of our careers, and we mow the yard and clean the gutters.

Simon Peter, Cornelius, Abraham and Isaac, they all lived as best they could and strove to serve God as best they could. And those young people who sacrificed so much and worked so hard in the underground factory, well, they lived as best they could too. In any age, God is.

Praise be to God. Shalom

The Little Big Things

BIG THINGS

Yesterday, the Southeast Church added 4 additional elders, bringing the total to 18.

The purpose for more elders is to have more shepherds to care for a flock of 1,100 sheep. Does it seem like 18 will be enough?

The service was beautiful. Prayers were led for the new elders and their spouses and families. Each new elder received a shepherd’s staff and a servant’s towel. Two reminders that they have been called to serve the needs of the flock.

SMALL THINGS

Throughout the morning, as we appointed the new shepherds in both services, I was approached by people, one at a time, asking for prayers.

  1. The First Request: a member told me she is taking in a family in need who will live in her home for some time. The request was that God’s peace, calm and understanding would fill their hearts in the days and months to come.
  2. The Second Request: a member came asking prayers for another family who is experiencing some difficult challenges. Their situation is known to me, I’m aware of what is happening. It’s hard and sad and needs prayer. 
  3. The Third Request: a member shared that her spouse has been diagnosed with a rare and incurable disorder causing severe pain that will never go away.  

The prayer was written on a folded piece of paper and the request was that I place it in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, also known as the Western Wall of the Temple. She knew  I was leaving for the Holy Land this week. 

Jerusalem's Wailing wall

I have stood and prayed there on several occasions. It’s a humbling place to pray, and if our feelings and emotions matter to God, and they do, then our Lord gives much attention to the prayers rising from the Wailing Wall. 

295063_3076114632888_2017250877_n

I will place her prayer between two of the ancient limestone blocks along with thousands of others. We both know her prayer isn’t any more powerful in Jerusalem than it is in Houston. But I understand why she asked. I’ve left a few prayers of my own in that wall.

Western-wall-prayer

TO CLOSE

On a day when big things were happening, a day of anointing new elders, a day that made our church stronger, there were also small things happening, things that went unnoticed, things very private. 

However, I suppose in the Kingdom of God, there really aren’t any small things. 

Shalom

Careless, Clumsy, and Confused?

THE THREE C’s?

Those would be: careless, clumsy and confused, along with the three F’s: forgetful, fatigued, and falling. 

The three C’s and the three F’s pertain to getting older, to aging. I did’t notice it until I turned 62. Being 61 was fine, it seemed like 60 or 59. But 62, oh my goodness have I noticed.  

A Few of the C’s

  • Sometimes lose track of what day it is.
  • I’m bumping into things more than I used to.
  • It’s taking longer to get the caps off of bottles. 
  • My mind is giving me the word I need but I say something else.
  • Find myself not caring as much about some things.

A Few of the F’s

  • I sometimes can’t summon the name of people I know.
  • Sometimes can’t remember what day it is.
  • I go to a room to get something and when I get there can’t remember why.
  • I remind myself about something and half way down the driveway I remember. 
  • And then, there’s falling down the stairs. 

I realize that what I’ve said risks making me look like a doddering fool or a man drifting into senility. I’ll assure you that it’s neither. 

Most of the C’s and F’s only occasionally happen, and I’ve always done some of them, but now it seems to have increased a bit.

FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS?

You might have wondered about that one. Well, here’s what happened. We had a kitchen table and chairs that wasn’t being used and offered it to our son who gladly accepted. He lives in a 3rd floor apartment. 

So, it took a couple of trips to get everything up there, but we did, and we got it put together. So, as I was leaving and going down the stairs I accidently missed a step, lost my balance, and went crashing down onto the landing. I missed a step and wished I hadn’t. Bang goes the dynamite. 

My head crashed into the corner pillar of the landing and wrenched my neck. My left shoulder hit the railing attached to the pillar. My right ankle felt like it was sprained or broken. My left foot was in immediate pain and shooting up into the knee.

stairs 2
Not my sons’ apartment stairs, but close, really very close!

THE EXPERIENCE OF IT

  1. It happened in a blink and I couldn’t react fast enough to prevent it.
  2. I knew on the way down it was going to be bad. 
  3. I haven’t fallen like that since slipping on ice when I was 32.
  4. I had the presence of mind to think: “I hope no one is watching.” 
  5. Nothing broken, no major injuries, except to my pride: ouch. 

It’s got to be the aging? Right? This is my first time to fall down stairs and hope to never do it again. I’m not clumsy or careless. As least I didn’t use to be. However, I have twice crashed through the ceiling from up in the attic, but that happened back in my 50’s. 

I’m fine, a little sore and banged up, but fine. If the fall had been recorded I could submit it to America”s Funniest Videos, I bet I’d win. 

I’m gearing up though. I turn 63 in May.

TO CLOSE

I’ve never been more productive in my work. My best life and best years are right now. I write a BLOG, have a VLOG, have published two books, working on the third, and I’m in my 10th year serving as Senior Minister for a great church. In a few weeks I’ll be leading a group to the Holy Land, my fifth trip to Israel.

You are as young as you feel. Age is just a number. Watch out for those stairs. 

Shalom

 

The Tale of Two Jasmines

NOT PEOPLE

A couple of years ago I bought two Carolina Jasmines from a high quality nursery. They were equals in size and vitality. I planted them in identical fashion with no variation, and no kidding, they were planted exactly the same, even the large pots were the same.

plantnursery
Nothing better than a high quality nursery for getting good quality plants!

OPTIMISM

 I chose the Carolina due to its hearty reputation. It’s impervious to summer heat, winter cold, and is easy to grow. They like containers and they seemed happy and well suited to their surroundings.  

Such was my optimism. 

REPORT CARD

Joyfully, one grew tall, full and prospered beyond expectations. It grows so rapidly that it demands pruning every few months. I could take a machete to it.

carolina-jasmine-plant-jasmine-false-carolina-jasmine-plant-care
Not my thriving Jasmine, but close, really very close.

Sadly, its twin hasn’t done as well. It has toiled, struggled and failed. Well, its grown from where it started but compared to her sister she’s produced a shameful result. 

deadplants
Not my struggling Jasmine, but you get the idea!

GIVING UP?

No, not giving up, not yet. I have fed and fertilized. I have pruned and carefully snipped the dead vines. I’ve given extra care to make sure it’s neither under or over watered. 

Is it making a comeback? I don’t know yet, but I’m hopeful. 

AND…?

The tale of two Jasmines has offered some insights:

  • There was no guarantee that each would be as the other.
  • Although identical when purchased, their appearances rapidly differed. 
  • I’ve been discouraged over the Jasmine that dared to be dull.
  • I could have been grateful for the one that’s prospered, but I didn’t.
  • It could be said that I’ve been a bit obsessed by the Jasmine plants.

THE SPIRITUAL

Jesus taught that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. But he wasn’t really talking about trees, he was talking about hearts, about us.

He once cursed a Fig tree for looking healthy but on closer inspection discovered it was barren, producing no fruit at all. Isn’t the value of a Fig tree the fruit it produces?

The Prophet Jonah complained bitterly about the heat. So, the Lord provided him with a shade tree. But Jonah was bitter about other things too, like the Assyrians, whom he hoped would be annihilated. It seemed that he cared more for the tree than he did for the people. So, he lost his tree and its shade. Jonah was obsessed with two things: Assyrian annihilation and a tree. Of the two, the tree was most important.

IN CLOSING 

  • Are we irritated with God about the “failed Jasmine’s” in our lives?
  • Do we think too much about how we look compared to someone else? 
  • Has bitterness seeped into our souls from the unfairness of it all?  
  • When we obsess over the superficial do we risk a barren, unfruitful heart? 
  • Is there risk for striving to look good on the outside but are ugly on the inside?

Isn’t the value of a good heart the good fruit it produces?

It’s The Tale of Two Jasmines 

Shalom 

Should Have Built It Like He Said

Day Seven: The Twelve Days of Christmas

INTRODUCTION

I once built a balsa-wood glider from scratch. My confidence was strong but my skills, well, not as much. With weak skills and poor results I approached my Dad for help, he was a pilot and an aviation expert. He advised me to rebuild the plane in ways I thought unnecessary, so, I didn’t. My plane didn’t glide, it just struggled to get off the ground.

I should have believed my father. 

16_73_14_father_and_son_modeling_toy_airplane_in_garage
Not me, or my dad, or my glider, but close, really very close. (not so much)

BELIEVING GOD

What the Father said about his Son, that he would be:

  1. born in Bethlehem.
  2. born to a virgin.
  3. called Emanuel.
  4. David’s heir.
  5. anointed with the Spirit.

He said he would be:

  1. despised
  2. abandoned
  3. denied
  4. betrayed
  5. pierced

Everything the Father said was true. Do we believe everything the Father says to us? Or, spiritually speaking, are we a plane struggling to get off the ground?

A favorite holiday movie is, “The Polar Express,” a film about kids and the true spirit of Christmas. There is a boy struggling to believe. But then, the Polar Express train eases into Santa’s Village. Later, Santa gives him the first gift of Christmas, a shiny silver bell with a clear beautiful sound, but a sound he couldn’t hear because he didn’t believe. But he soon finds his faith, and…

when he believed he could hear the bell.

IN A FEW DAYS

Millions will celebrate Christmas. With their fireplaces glowing and their stockings filled, wide eyed children will see their gifts under the trees. Within a couple of minutes they will sit knee deep in torn wrapping paper and ripped ribbons. It will be so much fun.

Millions will reflect on the birth of Christ, that Emanuel came, sent by his Father to one day be sacrificed. I’t’s what we needed, it’s why he came. Do we believe?

TO CLOSE

My balsa-wood glider, the 2nd one, looked great and flew like the wind, but not the first one. Nope, I had to start over and build it just like my father said. I should have believed. But hey, be of good cheer, because it’s never too late to start over. 

The Father sent his Son, Emanuel, the God who came near to help

Do you believe?

Merry Christmas